Release Date: Mar 27, 2012
Record label: Republic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Can a great band have a dull singer? The second LP by this electro-pop trio (New Yorker Andrew Wyatt and Swedes Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, a.k.a. Bloodshy and Avant) is exhilarating and, frequently, beautiful: "Paddling Out" is psychedelic disco; "Vase" is a sonata for synths and drum machine. The problem is Wyatt's thin voice and ineffectual presence.
The Swedish/American headphone-music maestros’ second effort keeps the band’s winning division of labor: Singer Andrew Wyatt supplies his bracing dry-ice chants while Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (a.k.a. writer-producers Bloodshy & Avant, who helmed Britney Spears’ ”Toxic,” among other pop smashes) provide meticulous sonic-palette landscapes. The spirit of Happy to You is indie rock, but the sound is as addictively sharp as anything in the Top 40.
There is something uncharted about these songs—clearly something significant has happened between the band’s debut and sophomore releases. In fact, we have it direct from one of the band’s masterminds, Pontus Winnberg, that “before this album, we were an idea. This time we are a band.” This is evident at every turn on Happy To You, imbued as it is with a new coherence, grandiosity and ambition that totally overshadows the quite well-developed debut album.
Miike Snow's 2009 self-titled debut saw a couple of big-time Swedish pop producers (Britney Spears's Toxic was their doing) teaming up with American rock singer/songwriter Andrew Wyatt to try some low-key indie pop. An improbable equation, sure, but the results were highly addictive. After spending most of the time since then on the road, they've become a proper band, and that new dynamic plays the biggest role on their new album.
If you’re expecting a reprise of blog-friendly Scandi-electro, look elsewhere. Following on from their eponymously titled first album, this dream team (two thirds Britney producers Bloodshy & Avant, one third Mark Ronson collaborator Andrew Wyatt) decided to take a step back and make an album ‘as a band’, rather than as competing knob-twiddlers. And it’s worked.
Sweden: the land of smorgasbords, easy-to-assemble furniture, and as of late, the world’s richest reserve of irrefutable pop genius. The Swedes have proven good for much more than a Mamma Mia punchline in recent years, successfully shirking any and all ABBA jokes as they’ve grown to master just about every facet of contemporary pop music since the mid-’90s, from Karin and Olaf Dreijer’s macabre brand of electro as The Knife and Fever Ray to Robyn’s knack for churning out impossibly infectious dance numbers to Max Martin’s ever-growing monopoly of Top 40 radio (he’s co-written/produced numerous top 10 hits for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and T. I.
Review Summary: Another distinctive electro offering that proves their debut was not a fluke. It’s not exactly Sonny Moore leaving post-hardcore to twiddle knobs and worship at the altar of day-glo paint and Ecstasy as Skrillex, but the ease with which Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have transitioned from crafting Top 40 epics as Bloodshy & Avant (see: Britney Spears – “Toxic”) to playing 260 shows and landing festival headlining slots as live band Miike Snow is nearly as impressive, not to mention eminently more listenable. Their self-titled debut was an unassuming collection of electro pop gems that rocketed to indie stardom on the backs of singles like “Animal” and “Black and Blue.
The second album by indie-electro pop trio Miike Snow once again fuses the leisurely vocals of American singer Andrew Wyatt with warm electronic soundscapes provided by the Swedish production team behind Britney Spears' "Toxic." As is a common hallmark for sophomore albums, Happy to You is not as singles-oriented as the Miike Snow debut, and tends to be a little more adventurous. Even so, it is still a good-natured record. There is an intensified Coldplay-esque orchestral drama to the lush, panoramic production and the twee melodies will appeal to mainstream fans, but like on the debut, wonky dance is their specialty.
The name “Miike” always fills me with a certain amount of trepidation by association, mainly due to Takashi Miike, purveyor of such famously squirmy shock schlock as Audition and Ichi the Killer. And so I imported electro-pop trio Miike Snow’s Happy to You into my iTunes with some apprehension, expecting some unholy J-horror-inspired fusion of the Knife and Esben and the Witch, all pitch-shifted voices, chopped n’ screwed percussion, and anything else you might find on a Salem album. Miike Snow’s music is none of these things; rather, it plays more like Gorillaz as produced by Röyksopp—or, perhaps, a dancier Peter, Bjorn and John.
The first album by Swedish-American production trio Miike Snow reached No 59 in the UK in 2009, and received mixed reviews, so the followup might not be quite the "highly anticipated" event their label claims it is. It does, however, exemplify the enjoyable glossiness that experienced backroom types (as Bloodshy & Avant, Swedish members Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg were responsible for Britney Spears's Toxic) can bring to the over-subscribed electropop genre. A martial beat, contrastingly languid vocals and a snaggy hookline give The Wave a toothsome kick, and what follows is catchier still.
Miike Snow has a bit of a problem on their hands. First off, the basics: The group is composed of a trio of very talented people—singer Andrew Wyatt and the duo Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg, who are perhaps better known as Bloodshy & Avant. While people may not know the name Bloodshy & Avant up front, they’ve likely heard the duo’s work, as they’ve been working as behind-the-scenes hitmakers for years, with Grammy-winning tracks and a host of other awards already under their belt.
If you could break up a band's music into its constituent pieces, what would be the most important part? Is it the production, the quality, or inventiveness of the sonics? Or would it be the singing and the presence of the frontman? How about the lyrics and their ability to convey emotion? Since we all hear music differently, this is an impossible question, but it's an interesting exercise when it comes to Miike Snow. Because the Swedish trio, who are known for an electronic take on springy indie pop, are really good at some things and not so great at others. They're lopsided.
Still riding the wave of a phenomenal 2009 self-titled debut, which garnered speed months after its release (with myriad remixes of its debut single, "Animal," by the likes of Crookers, Fake Blood and Mark Ronson), Swedish indie rock electro poppers Miike Snow have emerged with their second effort, Happy To You. Like its predecessor, the new disc delivers a nice mixture of lighter fare with heavier songs acting as an anchor, though Happy To You has a distinctly animated glow. The album's first single, "Paddling Out," loops an infectious blanket of keys and an amped-up backbeat, with the occasional siren thrown in for good measure, while both "The Wave" and "Pretender," aside from being incredibly catchy, capitalize on the falsetto musings of vocalist Andrew Wyatt.
A greater leap forwards than we could have expected the trio to make. John Aizlewood 2012 There was always something contrived about Miike Snow beyond their annoying name, a part-tribute to maverick Japanese film director Takashi Miike. Perhaps it was that they seemed to be a side-project studio collaboration between a couple of Swedes who'd bashed out hits for Britney Spears (including the mighty Toxic) and an American chum of Mark Ronson.